After spending the last twenty-one years working with children as an elementary school teacher, a middle school teacher, a therapist, and a parent, I have come up with hundreds of valuable parenting tips that I have learned throughout the years. Today, I would like to share five important lessons with you. As always, I remind myself of healthy practices, as I remind you. It is sometimes amazing how often we forget what we already know. Please read, your child will thank you.
- Create a United Front: Children need to know that their parents are on the same team. Children will often try to recruit one parent to their team making the other parent their opponent. This creates triangulation. Triangulation is the act of playing two people against each other. This is common in dysfunctional family systems and should be avoided. Children are very smart. By playing one parent against the other, the child removes him or herself from the hot seat while tensions build between parents. Don’t fall for it. In the long run, your child and your relationship will suffer.
- Seek Emotional Support From Adults, Not Your Child: Going to your child for emotional support is detrimental to their health. It is a parent’s job to meet the emotional needs of the child, not the other way around. Sharing your difficulties and problems with your child makes them insecure and anxious. They need to feel safe without worrying about your emotional well-being. It is your job to be there for them. This is not a reciprocal relationship, and it is not a friendship. Your child needs a parent. You can be their friend after they are grown. Take your problems to another trusted adult. Your child is not your parent.
- Give Your Child Roots and Wings: By loving, nurturing, and believing in your child, you give them roots that will last a lifetime. By teaching them responsibility, commitment, and accountability, you give them wings so that they will be able to one day become independent adults. You can not expect a child that has never learned responsibility, commitment, and accountability to magically become an independent adult at the age of twenty-one. It doesn’t work that way. These skills are taught continuously in age appropriate segments as a child grows. If your ten-year-old is allowed to quit every activity that he starts, will it surprise you when he can’t hold down a job at twenty-five? If your daughter is allowed to disrespect you at age five, what do you think you are going to get when she is fifteen? Remember, continuous age appropriate segments.
- Choose Your Battles: Children do need some room to decide things for themselves. You decide what really matters and let other things go. Your first grader is honest, kind, and gets good grades, but wants to wear his purple plaid shorts with his orange and black stripped shirt to school. You decide the outfit is not a battle you choose to fight. It may be helpful to give your child several different choices; all being choices that you like. This is usually a win/win strategy. Your child feels empowered and you approve of the choice. Here is how author, Dr. Richard Carlson, puts it. “Once we allow ourselves to get all worked up about things that, upon closer examination, aren’t really that big a deal, we focus on little problems and concerns and blow them way out of proportion. ” A helpful strategy may be to ask yourself if there will be long-term repercussions to your decision. If not, it may not be worth the battle.
- Effective Co-Parenting: You and your partner separate. What now? Keep the focus on the child’s well-being. Put your own anger, resentment, and bitterness aside for the good of your child. Your child loves both of you. By speaking negatively about the other parent in front of your child, you are hurting your child. Think about it. Do you want someone else to belittle and demean your loved ones? Neither does your child. By trash talking the other parent, you are putting your feelings above the feelings of your child. Take your frustrations to your friends or your therapist and leave your child out of it.
If there is anything that we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could better be changed in ourselves.-C.G. Jung
If you have some parenting tips that you would like to share, please share! Many children will thank you.